Army Sgt. James Bishop wiped away tears while he watched Barack Obama take the presidential oath Tuesday and wished his mother had lived to see a fellow black assume their nation’s highest office.
“My mother always wanted to be here,” said Bishop, 39, from Washington, D.C., who watched the ceremony on TV at Camp Liberty on the western edge of Baghdad.
“She always wanted this to happen, and she said it was going to happen one day,” he added. “Unfortunately, she passed before this time came.”
Across Iraq, many of the 140,000 U.S. military personnel watched the inaugural ceremony on television sets in dining halls and break rooms or over the Web at large installations with Internet service.
About 25 soldiers from the 299th Brigade Support Battalion of the 1st Infantry Division gathered in the chaplain’s office at Camp Liberty, watching the ceremony and munching snacks donated by Americans back home.
The soldiers cheered, whistled and applauded when Obama recited his oath as the 44th president.
If any of the soldiers resented Obama’s Nov. 4 election victory over Sen. John McCain, they didn’t show it, even though the Republican is widely admired in the ranks as a hero of the Vietnam War.
“I am proud of how far our nation has come,” said Maj. Charles Gatling, 38, of New York City.
I’m as happy as any to see this day finally arrive. No doubt I’ll have disagreements on policy and practice. This is all about politics after all. Still, our nation has taken a step forward towards honesty and integrity. How far into the bureaucracy it gets may be another story.